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Safety Godmother


Lessons learned
A would-be sexual predator tangles with the wrong girl

By Ellen Snortland

My strong suit is persistence. Even though I'm a nationally known self-defense advocate, it's still embarrassing to pick up that phone one more time to plead with friends: "Hi, me again. There's another self-defense class coming up. How about it?"

I have friends I've contacted for 15 years, every year. I don't get paid nor do I get a free toaster oven for referring students. What I get is the utter joy of knowing that I can possibly avert injury, maybe even - heaven forbid - death for people I care about.

Indeed, there was an assault at a gay bar in Pasadena several months ago that a dear friend finally told me about. I'm going to call her Wendy Whoop-ass because although hers is a story of victory, not victimhood, she's still reluctant to have her name or the name of the bar publicized. I'd pestered Ms. Whoop-ass for four years to take a full-force, full-impact class - which she finally did. So while this is a self-defense "success story," it's also a cautionary tale.

Many women have discovered over the years that gay men's bars provide a place for dithering, dancing and drinking the night away without constantly having to deal with being hit on by men. Nights out at a gay bar are kind of like having your beefcake without the bullying. This story erodes that assumption of safety.

Ms. Whoop-ass was dancing her ass off with a guy she assumed was "safe." She then went to the ladies' room. She was in her stall when she heard the door to the bathroom open. She heard a man's steps, looked down and saw the tips of black cowboy boots sticking into her stall. (What is it with men, toes and stalls, anyway?) Then the toe tips disappeared and the outside door opened and closed. Tipsy herself, she finished, opened her stall door and stepped out toward the sinks. That's when she saw the man she'd been dancing with standing with his back against the bathroom door to keep her from leaving.

"Now I'm going to fuck you," he said as he grabbed her shoulders and threw her up against the paper towel dispenser where she hit her head hard. That's when her fury and training kicked in despite her blood-alcohol level.

She remembers that he ended up on the floor not moving. She left the bar and called them later to tell them about the attack. She then went into a funk for a couple of months, not really realizing that she'd "won."

Why didn't she tell me right away? I am her self-defense "fairy godmother," after all. I needed to know that her class had worked to give me strength to keep encouraging my other friends (for however long it takes) to get them into classes too. Her class at Impact Personal Safety ( was 20 hours that had really paid off. Their basics class gives students confidence, physical and verbal boundary skills and the ability to "open a can of whoop-ass" on an attacker. (They have men's classes also. Men get assaulted and raped too.)

"I was embarrassed because I'd had too much to drink. I'm also upset that I let him get as far as I did. He shouldn't have gotten a chance to throw me up against the wall," she explained.

"Excuse me? You successfully prevented your own rape and you're upset at yourself for not having done it perfectly?" I asked. This was a new angle on "blaming the victor." She laughed.

Hers is a success story if I ever heard one. This training works! Did she have any memory of what she did? "I think I went for his eyes first, and then kicked him in the crotch, but it all happened so fast. I just wanted to get away," she said.

I got into the field of self-protection because I too had my "it could never happen to me" denial shattered once and for all by an encounter with violence that was unrelated to gender. I too prevailed. I began to research just how many "success" stories there are and how they often go unreported by the victim and or the media.

Success stories by their very nature mean that an attempted crime was stopped. Unfortunately, we learn to be more afraid from hearing stories of completed crimes than we do of attempted crimes where something the intended victim did worked after all.

Wendy Whoop-ass' would-be predator is smart. Was he a straight, bi or gay rapist? Rape is a crime of violence, not totally sexual attraction, so who knows what his orientation is?

Wendy Whoop-ass is now on the road of persistence with me. She calls her friends every time there's a new cycle of classes and says, "Hi, me again. There's another self-defense class coming up. How about it?"

Pasadena Weekly: 12/6/07

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